CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 June 2019

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Schools to follow 
Jesus the Way

In the pastoral outreach of the Church, schools have always played an important role. Since Vatican II closed its doors nearly half a century ago, the Vatican has reaffirmed at least once in each decade the essence and direction of Catholic education.

These documents have all addressed the issue, Declaration on Christian Education (1965), The Catholic School (1977), The religious dimension of education in a Catholic school (1988), The Catholic school on the threshold of the third millennium (1998) and On religious education in schools (2009).

It is clear that the Vatican is concerned about the identity and Catholic character of education amidst the rapid political, economic, social, technological and cultural change of the past 50 years. 

The provision of a Catholic perspective of life, informed by the teachings of Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, has been consistently presented.

It is a good criterion to measure our schools in Hong Kong against.

Jesus is the Way is the theme for this year’s Education Day. It reminds us that only his way leads us to life in the full and it is the responsibility of all who work with young people, especially teachers, to guide them in their search for Jesus.

But in the face of the proliferation of diverse and conflicting views and values in society in Hong Kong this becomes extremely complex. The row with the government between 2004 and 2011 over Incorporated Management Committees has caused the sponsoring bodies to worry whether or not the time-honoured educational principles can still be upheld.

The diocese lost its appeal and has to constitute the committees by September 2015. The biggest challenge of today is undoubtedly ensuring that the core values of Catholic schools are not forgotten, but effectively integrated. These are the road signs of Catholic education. They provide clear direction to schools.

The diocese and the 20 plus religious congregations that run schools must ensure that all stakeholders embrace and safeguard these values. This must be a long term commitment on the part of the sponsoring bodies to ensure that constant replacement of school managers, teachers and parent representatives will not see these values reduced to a catchphrase. On-going formation programmes for all new stakeholders are needed.

A formal curriculum in religious and moral education is indisputably the most effective means to nurture Catholic values among students. Through various religious activities, our students are introduced to the teachings of Jesus.

The frequent use of the metaphor of the way, or the journey, in the titles of the textbooks published by the diocese is a sign that it acknowledges this.

Teachers must practice what they preach in order to be able to accompany and guide their students, and even be a path leading to Jesus themselves.

 

Education Day is a good opportunity to reflect on the nature of Catholic education. This year, the theme of Jesus is the Way gives a good opportunity to ensure that the orientation of our schools does indeed follow the way. SE